As a non-CPA, I was floored when learning the requirements to sit for and pass the Uniform CPA Exam. Generally believed to be one of the most challenging accreditation exams in any industry, sitting for the CPA exam represents a tremendous commitment on the part of the candidate, both in terms of time and energy.
So, what can you do to support YOUR candidate? Whether your candidate is a family member, friend, colleague, or other acquaintance, there are a number of ways you can show your support and keep their spirits up through this process (which can last 18 months or more!) Following these do's and don'ts will show your candidate that you care about them and their success.
1. DO tell them that you are there for them. Having a strong support system is essential for anyone taking on a challenge and, given that most CPA candidates prepare for the exam while juggling school, work, and/or family commitments, knowing that there are people who care about them and want to ease their burden can make a huge difference in their state of mind.
2. DON'T take offense. Preparing to take the CPA exam is a massive undertaking. Even when following the AICPA Blueprints and/or using a top-notch review course, a candidate still must spend hours studying. This means that they will have much less time in their schedules, even for those in their support system, so don't get upset if they don't return your call, text, etc. right away. Instead, just let them know that you are thinking about them and would love to hear from them. Make an effort to be consistent about this - often we are energized and motivated in the beginning to reach out, but then our attention dwindles. However, if you schedule a regular, periodic check-in, your odds are better of reaching them at a moment when your words of encouragement are the kickstart they need!
3. DO help them unwind. As much as we want to be laser-focused on our goals at all times, our brains, and emotions, need a break! Check in periodically to see if you can facilitate a study break. Sometimes they will take this as an opportunity to vent about the efforts they are making, other times they don't want to say a word about the exam during this time away from their desk. Both techniques have value so encourage your candidate to clear their mind in whatever way is most effective for them.
4. DON'T ask "Did you pass?" This is a tough one. Once we know a candidate has taken a section of the exam, and the scores have been released, we are naturally both curious and ready to celebrate. I can assure you, if you have shown interest in your candidate's journey throughout, if they passed they will let you know! However, if they failed, they will undoubtedly be dealing with some tough emotions. Having others ask if you passed will rub salt in the wound. Rather than reaching out specifically to find out the results, just continue your regular habit of touching base. The good news, or bad, will naturally come up in your check-ins and it will be easier to judge their mood and react accordingly.
5. DO tell them you are proud of them. If your candidate passes a section, this will add to the validation of their choice to pursue their CPA and, if they still have sections left, will invigorate them to keep going. If they failed a section, you could still express your admiration of the effort they have put forth. Again, we all want encouragement that we are on the right path and that we will succeed if we keep up our efforts, so let your CPA candidate know how awesome you think they are regardless of where they are in the process!